Getting things done – even if they’re not fun
Source: Psychology Today
The Big Takeaway: It’s not always easy to get to everything on your to-do list. Things like exercise, eating right, and saving money for your future are easy to put on the back burner. The best way to stop procrastinating may not be about making lists or better time management; it’s about changing your attitudes.
“If only there were more hours in the day.” We’ve all said some version of this phrase at some point in our lives. It’s a great way to justify putting off the list items that might not be considered fun, like exercising or eating healthy. There are always “more important” things to do, so we just move them to the next day in hope that more hours show up tomorrow.
Many people think that if they could just better manage their time, they’d be more likely to accomplish these goals. Research studies indicate, however, that might not be the case — or at least the whole truth.
This article from Psychology Today takes a deeper look at why we might deprioritize activities that really should get more attention throughout the day. The book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy suggests that we should make lists of everything we need to do throughout the day and do the “worst” items first, just to get them out of the way. While this may be a good strategy, there’s a deeper truth just under the surface.
What makes an activity the “worst?” Perhaps if we take the time to understand why we don’t like a certain activity, like eating healthy or exercising, we can change our attitudes to make the activity enjoyable (or at least important). Then, just maybe, we won’t want to procrastinate in the future.
To overcome these procrastination-inducing feelings, the article outlines several tips to help you do what needs to get done, even if you don’t want to:
- Awareness – The knee-jerk response to doing things we don’t want to do is to simply not do them. But if we take a minute to think about why we don’t want to do them and the positive outcomes we’ll get if we just get it done, we’ll be more apt to take on the project right away. Make a list of all the common situations where you’ll have to make a similar decision, like eating healthy, and consider how you can make better choices and actions. The next time a situation arises, you’ll be more aware of your feelings and the choice you should make.
- Break it down – Many times, we avoid tasks because they’re too big and daunting. But if we break the task down into several smaller steps it becomes much more manageable, making it easier to dive right in without the procrastination. Don’t have time for an hour-long workout? Do four 15-minute workouts spread throughout the day.
- Think about the future – Everyone likes instant gratification. That’s why it’s easy to push off activities like eating healthy. A delicious unhealthy meal is obviously much better right now! If you eat an apple instead of a bag of chips, what do you have to show for it in the moment? Nothing! But you’ll be healthier in the long run. Focusing on that future goal and making self-care (which it is) a priority will help you embrace that “unwanted” list item with a different mentality.
While this article may be about exercise and eating healthy, it’s easy to see how these same principles apply to your finances. Instead of swapping a bag of chips for a healthy apple, you can swap buying another pair of shoes or a new gadget for adding to your savings account or investment portfolio.
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Saving for your financial future isn’t always the “fun” thing to do, but it’s not something you should put off until tomorrow (because tomorrow may never come). Take the time to think about why you don’t save as much as you should, break down your savings goals into smaller steps, and work on reframing smart financial moves as acts of self-care — which should be a priority.